Agriculture and the environment are sometimes seen as being on opposing sides, but in reality the two can coexist in sustainable ways. Farmers taking innovative approaches work to conserve and protect water, among other resources.

Some specific measures farms have implemented to be more environmentally-friendly:

Take Tom Barcellos, a third generation dairy farmer in California. Tom knows well the special challenges of the Golden State: drought and air pollution. He therefore transitioned from conventional tillage to a combination of no-till and strip-till, which leaves previous crop residue on the field with the next crop planted directly into the residue.

This tillage system prevents erosion by up to 90 percent, while increasing organic matter in the soil, preserving soil moisture and producing healthier crops that better fend off pests. Increasing soil organic matter allows them to preserve more soil moisture and reduce water use. For example, each 1 percent increase in soil organic matter helps soil hold 20,000 gallons more water per acre.

Then there is Oakland View Farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. It partnered with a local water quality advocacy non-profit organization, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC), to implement the first woodchip bioreactor in the area. According to MRC, similar to a wetland, the woodchips naturally filter 100 percent of nitrate concentrations from potential runoff. This helps protect the water quality of this impaired watershed and supports the wildlife and community that rely on this natural resource.

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